Charles 'We won't call him Chas' Christiansen - Shredder

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Charles, notchas, can do heaps of cool shit, just google it. We spoke to him about being a punk and playing the flute, his cover band the MESSFITS, the ideal cycling event and how many punks you can fit into a Ford Tempo. 


When were you born and where did you grow up?

NOTCHAS: I was born in Eugene Oregon and spent my formative years in Olympia Washington.

What is your Current City?

NOTCHAS: Home has been San Francisco for the last 9 years or so.

You spend a large part of your life on the road travelling, riding and documenting everything. Does that curiosity extend to music? Do you pick up music from different cities and cultures when you visit?

NOTCHAS: When I travel I try to digest as much of the local flavor as I can, usually in the form of meat on a stick BBQ'd on a street corner. I really dig going to shows when I travel but I can't say that I pick up a lot of the local music. However I do pick up a lot of new music from other racers.. Everyone has their warm up music and swapping songs is a good way to mellow out before a race, also people listen to some strange jams to get hyped to shred.

What are the strangest jams you’ve picked up from other people during a warm up?

NOTCHAS: ya know one of the weirder ones was The Postal Service.... not gonna say who but I really couldn't wrap my head around using that as warm up music. I got turned onto The Unstoppable Death Machines from trading headphones at a Brooklyn RHC, that was pretty cool

Trading headphones pre race, that’s a bold move. What are you using to warm up to?

NOTCHAS: LOL I used to be really into Red Fang for warm ups.. but since I started the MESSFITS I generally just listen to our set list and sing along.. for some reason it hypes me up and also mellows me out.  When I perform I tend to get lost in the music, the same thing happens while racing (hopefully) so listening to our set list helps me get really into the moment.

What was the last race you did? How do you travel to these, with a crew or by yourself most of the time? What music were you listening to on the last trip?

NOTCHAS: Last weekend I raced a double header CX race in Sacramento CA, about a 90 minute drive from home.  I drove up with a solid crew, rolling deep in the #teamvan is one of the cooler perks of CX racing.  We listened to a lot of different jams on the way out, but one that really stuck was the new War on Drugs album,  solid cut but def not what you would expect as hype music for a big race.

I really like that album as well, wouldn’t typically use it as hype music though you’re right. Music is a big part of the “road trip” who is choosing the music in the team van your trips?

NOTCHAS: Usually it is whom ever is co-pilot,  the MASH crew is a really diverse group of shredders,  last race we went from $ucide boy$ to some waaaay out there black metal, then finished with some cool reggae jams.. it was really weird,  but all and all pretty rad.  When I am on non bike road trips my GF picks a lot of the tunes,  we share a deep love of pop punk and can often be found ripping along BLM roads shouting along with Green Day and Blink 182..

What music do you remember growing up around? Who was the first person to get you into music?

NOTCHAS: Growing up I was little punk rocker, mohawk, skateboard, fuck authority etc etc.  Olympia had a solid music screen so before I was allowed to go up to Seattle to see bands I hung around the local venues,  The Melvins, Gas Huffer, MudHoney, I guess I grew up around the post Nirvana NW punk scene. All I really cared about though was NOFX, Rancid, Bad Religion, I even thought Black Flag and Circle Jerks were oldies.

I listened to a lot of similar bands growing but it’s like they existed in another reality living in a rural town on the east coast of Australia thousands of miles from the states. This may seem like a strange question but looking back how normal was it to go to those gigs and see those bands? Or was it still a big deal?

NOTCHAS: It was still a huge deal to me! I mean Olympia is the capital of WA state but it is still a small town. Or maybe I just made it a big deal to me and my friends, I remember using what shows I had been to as a way of telling the passing of time, "it was that party after the Bad Religion show but before we went to see NOFX in portland" type of thing. Def the high points of every year were the shows i went to see. I totally see where you are coming from though, as I got older and started to hang down in LA and SF more I realized seeing these bands was a totally normal thing for kids in the CA scene, since at the time most of the bands I listened to were from CA it was like "oh man Rancid is playing AGAIN.. i guess we'll go, there's nothing better to do"... it blew my mind that kids could not think it was a big deal to see these bands play live.

Who got you into music?

NOTCHAS: One of the kids I skated with Frank Flaminni was always turning me onto new bands, his mom would let him go to shows up in Seattle and he would bring back CD's and burn copies for our little middle school skate crew, I feel like that was how I learned about new bands.

How’d you guys get to shows when you were so young?

NOTCHAS: If the shows were in Olympia we would ride our bikes, or take the bus and skateboard, pretty normal stuff.  There was always someone driving up to shows in Seattle or down to Portland,  it's like those old clown movies where they all pile out of a VW bug.. "how many punks can you fit in a FORD Tempo?"

Hahaha like 8? What is the first song you remember liking?

NOTCHAS: Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA  I wore out my mom's cassette tape one summer in 2nd grade. Still think of running around the house on a warm summer night in my underwear singing at the top my lungs every time it comes on.

hahaha. Did you play a music instrument as a kid?

NOTCHAS: One of the juxtapositions of my youth was that while i was a fledgling punk rocker I was also a band geek. I played the flute for 3 years through middle school.  I loved making music but hated the stigma so I would hid my flute in the woods everyday and retrieve it only for band practice. I once won a competition playing Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" after watching the movie SHINE.

I’m picturing a younger you with a mohawke and ripped jeans looking all punk playing Flight Of The Bumble Bee in a recital hall. Did your punk friends ever find out that you were a badass on the flute?

NOTCHAS: I was def the only kid with a Mohawk in band.. ya know once I really started to hang out with the punks I never got shit for being in band.. we were all weirdoes' and hung out together because everyone else made fun of us, so why make fun of each other.  That being said I got shit from pretty much everyone else for playing flute in the band...but i mean i really liked it and also got to hang out with cute girls for a whole period every day, kind of a no brainer.

You’re in a band now right? What do you play?

NOTCHAS:I am in a band... but I don't really play anything. I front an all messenger MISFITS cover band called the MESSFITS.  Started when I ran my mouth after a few too many at the bar and then woke up realizing I had agreed to play a show and had no band, shit had never even been in a band.  But you should do what you say, ESPECIALLY if you are drunk so I got a few other dudes together and we've been shredding ever since, high lights include opening for a magician, playing a bridal shower and opening for Big Freedia.

When can I see the MESSFITS, they sound like a good time.

NOTCHAS: You can catch the MESSFITS shredding house parties and dive bars around the bay.  We really have no shame when and where we play as long as we can bring all our shitty friends and have a party. Dude we just opened for an all SKA halloween show called Skalloween at the Gilman in Berkley.. It was so rad,  got a nice circle pit of everyone skanking along LOLOLOL.  Guess we gotta make a road trip to LA and play a show so you can feel the heat.

Hell yeah you gotta. Take that shit on the road so I can get a taste. How have your musical tastes changed and developed over the years since you were a kid? Did you ever get into any scene’s or the like?

NOTCHAS: I was pretty narrow minded in my high school years, nothing but punk rock and fuck anything else (really great Agnostic Front song).  As I started to move through life I opened up and definitely dipped into some different scenes.  Mid 2000's was all about hip hop, Del La Soul, Tribe Called Quest,  Peanut Butter Wolf, Deltron 3030.. The only thing missing was the addidas and the kangol hat, I was painting a lot of grafitti at the time so it kind of just made sense to me.  I think a big realization going to a Spits show in Portland with a bunch of graf writers in 2006 and being blown away that those dudes liked grimey punk bands too,  after that I  really stopped limiting myself and started to listen to whatever I wanted.

What was the first album you bought with your own money?

NOTCHAS: Rancid - Let's Go , Dead Kennedy's - Bedtime for Democracy, NOFX - Liberal Animation I bought them all at the Tower Records in SF in 1999,  Probably not the first albums I ever bought but definitely the first that stuck in my head.  I mean I was in San Franfuckingcisco buying punk CD's!!! everything up till that point had been burned CD's or mixtapes...

What was the first gig / concert you remember going to?

NOTCHAS: One of the better venues in Olympia was the Capital theater, a real classy 1920's art deco spot...but we rarely went to in the front.  They would open up the stage doors in the rear and bands would play facing backwards, it was called the Backstage.  I spent a year hanging out in the alley in middle school before I ever went in to see a show.  To be honest I don't remember the name of the lineup but it was my friend's Rusty's band opening so he got me in.  I think the first "real" show I ever went to was seeing Bouncing Souls and Flogging Molly play at the Graceland (rip) in Seattle 2001,  pretty much a life changing experience for a young punk, i remember we lost the car keys and had to wait till sun up for someone to bring us a new set so we could drive home and make it to class.

Playing backwards, very punk. Sounds sick.

NOTCHAS: It was, when I first started seeing bands there it was the only "real venue" i had ever been too, I thought it was literally the coolest thing in the world, and that it was huge...I remember going back years later and realizing how small and shitty it was.

What's the best gig / concert you've been to?

NOTCHAS: Murder City Devils at the Great American Music Hall in SF 2014 - I had always wanted to see them play and this was one of their reunion tours, I went with a bunch of friends.. to be honest I don't really remember all that much about the set, just screaming along with every song, sweat soaked and bloody, feeling like I got hit by a train after the set, I think i lost my voice for a couple of days after that.

Who’s musical taste do you really admire?

NOTCHAS: no one in particular

Is there anyone you’ve been on the road with who has had just brutal taste in music and you’ve been forced to suffer through it?

NOTCHAS: LOL i feel like that is me, when I am on the road, especially if I am driving it, I can get a little scattered.. Blink182 , Keisha, Sleep, Boston.. I really just like to sing along and keep it interesting.  But I can be a little awkward when you realize everyone else in the car has headphones on..

That’s fair though, when you’re driving you’re in charge. You draw a bunch of dope designs on saddles and frames. I wanna know what came first, art or bikes? Chicken or the egg?

NOTCHAS:  Naw, art always came first.  I have always been drawing on things,  before bikes stuff it was found pieces of wood, old paintings, spray paint cans etc etc.  I ran a screen printing studio in Portland for years before I moved to SF.  I think that I like to draw in whatever is around and right now it is bike stuff.  I like to ride the same gear so when sponsors send a lot of extra stuff I usually end of doodling on it.  It is also really cool to see people rip around stuff that you had a hand in creating, I really like to see the wear and tear on rims and saddles, I think some people call it "patina."

And further, looking at everything you create and the way you ride, what is the bike for you?

NOTCHAS: I love and hate answering this question as every answer I give sounds so cliche..  The bike to me is freedom, in a literal sense but also in the big picture.  When you are out riding you decide where you will go, how fast or slow, the long way or the short cut, every time I get on my bike I am reminded that I have the freedom to dictate the path my life follows.  It also at least for me has led to an incredibly free lifestyle.  From bike messaging, having the city be my office, too racing around the world.  My bike has helped me break away (no pun intended) from the normal 9-5 lifestyle.  The opportunities my bike has presented constantly remind me to never settle and always look outside the box.

Does music play a part in your creative processes?

NOTCHAS: yes and no. I almost always listen to music when I draw or ride, but I think I do it differently than some people. I rarely if ever listen to words of a song, for me it is about the beat, the melody, the sick fucking break down or the chill riff. I only really realized this going on roadtrips with my girlfriend, she knows all the words to her favorite songs and to her that is what makes them special, the messages each song contains. She laughed because I knew none of the words but i knew every break down and chord change. For me it is more about the feeling than the message.  As far as the creative process music can chill me out or hype me up, it helps bring me to a mental space where I feel creative.

I’m not super familiar with alleycat racing and even the fixed gear scene for that matter. It looks as though music is a big part of the culture. Is it and does that change from country to country?

NOTCHAS: I think it is a part of alleycat culture for sure, from how we race to how we share our exploits with others. In most disciplines of racing it is unheard of to race with head phones (unless you are super pro then your team manager is yelling in your ear, or so I have been told), in street races most racers have the most ripping play list queued up from the start. There is almost no feeling i have never felt better than ripping through heavy traffic with your favorite jam blasting in your ears (bombing 5th ave. in NYC from 57th to Houston st. during rush hour - Red Fang - Wires, full blast).  This goes against most intelligent thinking, when racing in traffic you want all your senses available, but that is the beauty of it.  You get in the zone, in the pocket and you just shred, faster than any car, than your competitors, the fastest thing on the road.  (disclaimer for the kids - riding with headphones in is dangerous, be careful).

That’s riding.

NOTCHAS: Music is also a huge part of how the street racing scene grew.  The first MASH trailer was The Mall - friends and family, to this day i still get hyped hearing that song and I know it was a huge part of many street racers that came up when I did. Lucas Brunelle's first NYC alleycat video was cut to G&R - welcome to the jungle, I can't even count how many people have told me they started racing alleycats after seeing that video and feeling the energy. From Macaframa to RHC video's the music choice drives the energy and in some small way engages the watcher in the raw power of bike racing.

Also most alleycats end in a shitty bar or crappy warehouse where local bands will shred face all night. That was one of the things that drew me into street racing was the afterparties and the bands that played them.  In Europe it is more techno dance parties than punk bands like in the US but the music still drives the party late into the night.

I gotta get into alley cat racing.

NOTCHAS: It is a pretty rad time for sure although I feel like it is at an ebb right now.  When I moved to SF there was an alleycat every weekend somewhere, and the prizes were good. I paid rent by racing pretty much all of 2009 and 2010 while TCB was getting off the ground. Every weekend hustling at some race then selling the frame or prize bag on CL.  The best races were cash prizes, one time i won $1000 at a race.. fucking nuts right? Now there are hardly any local alleycats, the bigs ones still happen every year like Stupor Bowl and Monster Track but everyone who was into the scene got a road bike and or started racing fixed crits.....

Are there noticeable differences between the people in the different cycling genres you participate in? Like is one group more serious or tight knit or whatever?

NOTCHAS: there is totally a big difference between the different disciplines.  Street racing is bravado and ego, hangovers and taking huge chances, your level of fitness doesn't mean so much as your ability to keep a cool head and race smart.  But the bonds that are formed racing in traffic, the level of trust you have to have in someone to blow an intersection right next to them is unreal.  I have seen more fist fights at the end and during street races than anywhere else, but unlike some scenes (cough cough road racing) that is where is usually ends.  Once the race is over, the prizes are awarded and the beer is flowing all is usually forgiven in a street race, where as in some other racing scenes a not so gentle push during a race can lead to years of animosity. I feel like most of the dirt races are a closer to street racing than not, people shred hard but are more than willing to knock back a cold one or four after the race and laugh it off.  Fitness does begin to become more of a focus in CX and Gravel races but there is always the crowd that is just there to smoke jammers and have fun.  Road racing at least in my experience is more serious and focused, more business like,  bonds are formed but winning takes precedent over friendships / good sportsmanship.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, the level of fitness and the marginal gains that matter at the upper levels of road racing require much more commitment and focus than your Friday night alleycat or Sunday CX race.  Different strokes for different folks, that’s why cycling rules, there is something for everyone.

That’s what all cycling should be, no, all sport for that matter. It’s so cut throat now days that everyone is on edge all the time. One thing that helped me decide to hang up the wheels at the end of this season was the feeling that nobody really cares about each other in peloton. People die and still the next day someone, who you know and race with 70 days of the year, will dive under you knowing full well you will possibly crash but if it means they’ll finish a place higher or not get dropped as early then they’ll go for it every time.

NOTCHAS: I feel ya,  I can only imagine what it's like on the pro level.. even in RHC's people will cut lines and blindly dive corners to moved up from 35th to 34th.. blows my mind.  But then again i race for fun, I can kind of understand if you are racing to advance or make a living.. but still you gotta finish the race to get first, sometimes i feel like people forget that. It is in the works for next year.. I would love to see some of the RHC heavy hitters on a fixed CX bike.. or even better in traffic LOL

Or even better some road pro’s. If you were colonising Mars and could only take one album, what would it be?

NOT CHAS: Punk-o-rama 3  -  1998 epitaph records


 

Angus Morton